Should a Cesar Chavez Site be Added to the National Park System?

Reuther Hall, Forty Acres, is one of the sites being considered in the study. NPS photo.

Should a site "significant to the life of Cesar Chavez and the farm labor movement in the western United States" be added to the National Park System? The NPS is now seeking your comments, and public meetings on the possibility are being held in six locations in coming days.

The meetings and request for written comments are part of a Congressionally-directed "special resource study" of potential sites associated with the farm labor leader and movement in the West.

In case your history is a bit rusty, a summary of the study notes, "Cesar Chavez is recognized as the most important U.S. Latino leader of the twentieth century. During the 1960s, Chavez led a movement of thousands of farmworker families and their supporters as they created the nation's first permanent agricultural labor union."

Special resource studies don't always result in new sites being added to the NPS, and a variety of options are being considered. They include:

• ongoing management by the current public or private owners;

• technical assistance to property owners who wish to recognize the work of Cesar Chavez and the farmworker movement on land they own (for example, assistance in preservation techniques, public information, education, or other services);

• listing of historic sites on the National Register of Historic Places;

• educational or community service programs;

• NPS management of one or more sites, for example as a national historical park;

• NPS coordination of a historic trail or tour route.

What locations might be included in such a site?

The NPS has developed a preliminary list of significant sites, "including the Forty Acres and Filipino Community Hall properties in Delano, CA; Nuestra Senora Reina de la Paz in Keene, CA; the Santa Rita Center in Phoenix, AZ; and the 1966 march route from Delano to Sacramento. Additional significant sites can be found throughout California and Arizona in major cities and agricultural communities."

Between Monday, May 9 and Tuesday, May 24, public meetings are being held in six locations in California and Arizona. You'll find a list of meeting sites, dates and times at this link.

If you'd like to weigh in on the discussion, you don't have to attend one of these meetings; you'll find contact information for comments by U. S. Mail or e-mail at this site, or you can submit comments on-line.

You'll find some basic information to help you make an informed comment in a newsletter about the project. The deadline for all comments for this phase of the study is May 27, 2011.

You'll have a second chance to weigh in on this idea later this year. A draft study report is expected to be published for public review and comment in the fall of 2011, and a final report will then be transmitted to Congress by the end this year.

The purpose of the current study is to evaluate the areas in question "to determine whether they are eligible to be designated as a unit of the national park system, and to consider a range of options for preservation and public visitation." The debate over the financial feasibility of a possible new NPS site will come later during Congressional hearings, if the study recommends that such a site be established.

That said, it will be interesting to see if the current fiscal woes at all levels of government play into the discussion for possible NPS involvement in this, and other, potential new park areas. Is this an idea whose time has come, irrespective of budget constraints? Time will tell.

Comments

In an effort to be succinct, NO. For that matter any site designated to one person's achievements (good or bad) should be eliminated from NPS authority. That's what state parks are for. Kinda. But this manner of "honor" has no place in the context of the national park service.

The fact that you had to ask the question the way you did says "no". If there is a historical site worthy of NPS status and it happens to be related to Cesar Chavez - then fine. But to state the goal has establishing a NPS unit in Cesar Chavez's name and then going out to find a suitable site is clearly contrary to the intent of the NPS system.

There are some NPS units where site selection was probably an idea looking for a home. Take for instance Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park. I believe it started out as an idea, but with a question of what area would best represent the idea. I'm not sure how they settled on the former shipyards of Richmond, California.

Dr King, I guess is special, they want to Honor him in Washington DC. Part of that area is National Park.

Of course it should be added! Cesar deserves all of the recognition and honor we can bestow upon him - even posthumously. He was an icon of the American Labor Movement and his contributions to Labor in general and to promoting fair Labor practices and positive ideology towards farm-workers in particular as well as his embracing and advocating non-violent resistance for the expression of grievances have assured him of a permanent and revered place in U.S. Labor History.

@Lahat

If those were the criteria for establishing a NPS unit, I would agree. But they're not. And I would say the same about Rosie the Riveter if that is indeed how it happened.

Lone Hiker's suggestion would eliminate ~50 of the 475 named entities (not all
qualify as "units") in the NPS, and that's not counting Theodore
Roosevelt, De Soto, Wright Brothers, national trails, parkways, or other
places with significant natural resources or honoring 2 or more
individuals.

I see things a bit differently than ecbuck: of those 50+ person-specific sites, many are presidential birthplaces & such, but there's
more than a handful where the person and not the location was the driver for establishment: Benjamin Franklin National Historic Park, Booker T. Washington National
Monument, Francis Scott Key Memorial, Thaddeus Kosciuszko National
Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site (in Georgia).

Culture (and thus cultural parks as opposed to natural resource parks) are about often about people and not places. In the process of getting a ballpark number about the scope of Lone Hiker's suggestion, I now know a little bit about Clara Barton, David Berger, Maggie L. Walker, and Thomas Stone, and would understand a lot more about them and their eras and areas if I actually visited those NPS sites.

As a Californian who grew up driving past fields in the Salinas & Central valleys, I value and understand a bit about Cesar Chavez' role and importance to our culture, and support establishing CECH as a monument, memorial, or trail.

Chavez is undoubtedly a world hero, and he deserves some sort of national recognition. But to add yet another little-known and low-visitation unit complete with all the lifetime costs of a unit (another superintendent, another maintenance department, etc.) is not the answer - especially in light of a huge maintenance backlog. How much is it costing to fund this study? I say we put up a statue of him, on the national mall where millions can see him in a rightful place in U.S. History...but paid for by corporations, donations and grants. I'd be happy to add to that fund. Unfortunately, I think that this, like most other NPS special "studies," has already been decided.

Lone Hiker, says,” For that matter any site designated to one person's achievements (good or bad) should be eliminated from NPS authority … this manner of "honor" has no place in the context of the national park service.”

Yes, indeed. While we’re at it those already under NPS jurisdiction should be removed, also. Example, are those mentioned by tomp2. However, he missed a prime candidate which should be removed using Lone Hiker’s criterion: Abraham Birthplace National Historical Park.

Yes! Please do add a Cesar Chavez historical site to the NPS. May his passion and comittment always be remembered and continue to inspire future generations. Our family would love to make a visit to such a place to honor his memory and lifelong work. School children would be offered an opportunity to visit and learn about Cesar and his monumental work of nonviolent social change. Yes! Yes! Yes! Do it!

Indeed I did say, and have held fast to the position on these very airwaves for years that the national parks are not for the remembrance of mankind. I stand against naming parks for a man, naming park features for a man, naming access roads, buildings, campsites, etc. for ANY man. The park service facilities are for what we as a nation have that is unique to our geography in any given place in our country. That's not to say that a volcano is particularly unique and while we have facilities named in Hawaii and other states for just such things they speak more to their impact on the surrounding areas than they do to St. Helen or Mauna Loa per se. I'm absolutely in favor of blocking or removing any and all references to any American national, including Washington, Lincoln, King, Roosevelt, or whoever you care to add to the list no matter what the induvidual's impact on our heritage or national development. Period.
Seeya Cesar...

Lone Hiker;
Indeed I did say, and have held fast to the position on these very airwaves for years that the national parks are not for the remembrance of mankind. I stand against naming parks for a man, naming park features for a man, naming access roads, buildings, campsites, etc. for ANY man. The park service facilities are for what we as a nation have that is unique to our geography in any given place in our country. That's not to say that a volcano is particularly unique and while we have facilities named in Hawaii and other states for just such things they speak more to their impact on the surrounding areas than they do to St. Helen or Mauna Loa per se. I'm absolutely in favor of blocking or removing any and all references to any American national, including Washington, Lincoln, King, Roosevelt, or whoever you care to add to the list no matter what the induvidual's impact on our heritage or national development. Period.
There are features in NPS areas that were named for persons before the NPS had anything to do with them.

Possibly among the most prominent would be the General Sherman and General Grant trees at Sequoia NP, Mount Rainier, and Mount McKinley (yeah that's still the official name). There are tons more I'm sure, and removing and blocking all the names would seem to be a rather futile effort.

Then there are features named after natives, such as Tenaya Lake.

Practicality is not exactly my middle name. People tend to enjoy wasting time debating issues without ever resolving them. If our officials in Washingto DC should have taught us anything is that what they do best are protracted periods of nothing. I tend toward the other end of the spectra. Wipe the slate clean and do it over, correctly and completely. The best place to start resolution of any issue is always by not compounding it. From that point you have at least minimized the damage and the overall scope of the project.
Insofar as places named after native faces, I see no delineation between the two. Last time I checked natives were people too, unlike what Anglo history teaches us. So under my criteria they too would fall under the same banishment rule. As would any other figures from history no matter how ancient or recent. The park service lands are nature at it's finest which is why their aka is "scenic America". The terms of their description should lend themselves toward that end, rendering any references to a "man" as quite useless. I find nothing or note in the terms Bryce Canyon or Grand Teton, whereas Glacier, Grand Canyon, Big Bend, Joshua Tree, Denali, Crater Lake, Badlands, and Yellowstone conjure physical images in ones mind. That's precisely what should happen when you reflect on ANY of the units. Even if said images lack in accuracy then connote the natural, the topographical, the serene, the surreal. Without any prior contact / knowledge of any type just what does a canyon named for Ebenezer Bryce do for ya?
I didn't think so. Doesn't do much for anybody else either. Another opportunity lost due to man's overreaching self-importance. Should have been named something like Hoodoo, Delicate Rocks or Sandstone Monument to list but a few more proper possibilities.

Yes, and the perfect place? The little village of WEED PATCH in Weed Patch CA. There are the remains of a depression era GOVERNMENT CAMP for Oakies there and there is the NEW HOUSING for Migrant Workers during the growing season just a few miles down the road. YES YES YES. Thank you!!

Lone Hiker:
I find nothing or note in the terms Bryce Canyon or Grand Teton.
You do realize the origin of the name "Grand Teton", right?

I'd hate for some of the names to be changed - especially Yosemite. The name was a reference to people.

The fact is that all of our national parks have been shaped by the impact of people over the years. Yosemite Valley was burned by natives to promote acorn harvesting, and there were several apple orchards planted.

Some logical conclusion would interesting for your proposal. I suppose the Ansel Adams Gallery would have to be renamed?

i find that nature has done a more competent job at shaping the parks than man even could dream of, and when the influence of mankind does take hold, as in the damming of the Colorado River reshaping the topography and ecology of the Grand Canyon, then the entire system begins to rapidly deteriorate. And due to those influences, along with the short-sightedness and generally low IQ of man when it involves our planet, the best that can be said is that "I remember when", which is a pathetic and sorry statement for the supposed "master of world".

And yes, I understand the Tetons. But rather than take the time to scrutinize what little might be proper, which is a tremendous waste of time, it's far more palatable to blow the whole thing up and get it right the second time. That would be the time for scrutinizing probable changes. It would also expedite the process and I hate wasting time. But as this is all hypothetical anyway, let's not get our collective shorts in a knot. We're too egotistical a species to admit that our person vanity is improperly bestowed on objects of creation (or do you prefer design???)

Yes, let's make our Parks a testiment to the intelectual, not! Just skip the most grounded needs of our lives and live in those lofty places where we demean our predecessors (and ourselves) to assume the position of "creator." Could we add a good bit of humbling to the equation?

When I think of the NPS I don't think of Cesar Chavez. This political not nature. We have national parks that need attention or have budget constraints due to congress defunding the NPS. Why create another site, for a political issue. If they (the state) has not set up an monument to him, why should the NPS do so. Is there any site for the Labor struggles that were taking place in the 20's and 30's. I don't think there is. They did more for the working man than Cesar Chavez, imo. Heck, we can't even get the Native American view of things happening during the settling of the the west as the article on Ft. Laramie in Wy states.

no,besides that,we have enough on the table with the parks we have now,where is the funding and we cannot afford it..and most peop[le will not mention,the people that he orgainized for we mostly illegals...

Sure this is political in nature. So are the several birthplaces/homes of former US Presidents or other political figures. I don't disagree with the argument that the NPS doesn't have adequate funding, but the inclusion of many NPS sites has been political in nature.

The National Park Service has a mandate to protect both natural and historic resources. Perhaps some don't agree with all the stated goals. I thought the arrowhead design of the NPS logo was supposed to represent historical preservation. I haven't done a full analysis, but I would think the majority of NPS units (and even a few full "National Parks" like Mesa Verde) were included primarily for their historical value. There's a long list of National Historic Sites, National Battlefields, and National Historic Parks in the NPS inventory. A quick glance at a list of National Monuments under NPS jurisdiction would seem to indicate at least half hold their primary importance for their human history.

A "park" in and of itself is a very human thing. Nature generally doesn't respect manmade boundaries. if you don't feel a human enterprise should recognize human history, then eventually the human race will become a footnote lost in the grand scheme of things.

The mission of the National Park Service - "conserve the scenery and the wildlife and the natural and historic objects therein....for the enjoyment of future generations" - too, bad, Lone Hiker, but history and human accomplishments are part and parcel of the NP system. You are welcome to your personal opinion, but national policy and Congressional actions do not agree with you.

I would ask, if we are going to honor Cesar Chavez, fine, but what about some of the other figures prominent in American Labor - John L Lewis, Walter Reuther?

http://www.nps.gov/legacy/mission.html

Congress declared in the General Authorities Act of 1970 "that the National Park System, which began with the establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872, has since grown to include superlative natural, historic, and recreation areas in every region ... and that it is the purpose of this Act to include all such areas in the System...."
Don't like it. Take it up with Congress. Write letters and encourage your friends to write if they believe the same.

In the end it'll be a futile effort. The NPS mission is about far more than about natural features. I mean - they created several units based around water recreation where a dam was built.

No they should not have anything more to do with Cesar Chavez, I lived in bakersfield and he was not the Saint everyone is making him out to be. He used to chase kids off with a gun, and he was mean and had a potty mouth. he was not a likable nice man and he does not deserve anything else. he has enough already. For God's sake this is our National Parks.